The two or three weeks leading up to the Breeders’ Cup are a quiet time for top-level U.S. horse racing. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t intriguing maiden special weights for 2-year-olds on the agenda.
A couple of Friday maiden heats at Belmont Park and Santa Anita offer several juveniles worth following. Let’s review four of the best-bred prospects:
Belmont Park Race 7: Maiden special weight (1 1/16 miles, 3:47 p.m. EDT)
No. 3 Make a Wish
Pedigree: Curlin–Got Lucky, by A.P. Indy
Purchase price: N/A
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
It is easy to see why Make a Wish is debuting in a route race – the bay filly is bred top and bottom to thrive running long. Sire Curlin is a two-time Horse of the Year renowned as a source of stamina at stud, while dam Got Lucky (a daughter of Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy) won the Spinster (G1) racing 1 1/8 miles.
Whether this stout pedigree can translate to a debut victory for Make a Wish is unclear. Both Curlin and Got Lucky peaked as older horses, though Got Lucky did place second in the Demoiselle (G2) as a juvenile. But regardless, Make a Wish is one to watch in the long term.
No. 4 Nostalgic
Pedigree: Medaglia d’Oro–Been Here Before, by Tapit
Purchase price: N/A
Trainer: Bill Mott
Speaking of stoutly bred fillies, Nostalgic has the pedigree of a top-class route runner. The Godolphin homebred is a son of multiple Grade 1 winner Medaglia d’Oro (a definite stamina influence at stud) out of Been Here Before, who placed in the one-mile Caesar’s Wish at Laurel Park. Been Here Before, in turn, is a daughter of Tapit, who has sired four winners of the Belmont Stakes.
Nostalgic has been training forwardly at Belmont Park, turning in a few bullet workouts, and picks up hot jockey Jose Ortiz for her debut. Trainer Bill Mott isn’t a frequent winner with horses debuting over one mile or farther, but an encouraging effort should nevertheless be in the offing, with better to come down the road.
Santa Anita Race 4: Maiden special weight (six furlongs, 5:35 p.m.)
No. 2 Godsend
Pedigree: Midshipman–Miss Del Gallo, by Hennessy
Purchase price: $80,000
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill is set to debut Godsend, who sold for $80,000 earlier this year. The bay colt is a son of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Midshipman (a champion 2-year-old) out of Miss Del Gallo, in turn a daughter of the Hopeful (G1) winner and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Hennessy. Talk about a pedigree geared toward early maturity.
Whether Godsend can develop into a contender for the spring classics remains to be seen, but he has turned in an encouraging series of workouts at Santa Anita (including five furlongs from the starting gate in 1:00.2) and might outrun his odds on Friday. The presence of Triple Crown-winning jockey Mike Smith is encouraging.
No. 4 Blackadder
Pedigree: Quality Road–Chapel, by Pulpit
Purchase price: $620,000
Trainer: Bob Baffert
One of the most expensive juveniles debuting this week is Blackadder, who sold for $620,000 as a yearling. The dark bay colt is a son of four-time Grade 1 winner Quality Road (an elite sire whose progeny thrive under many conditions) out of the Pulpit mare Chapel, who previously produced Angels Flight winner and Las Virgenes (G2) runner-up Gingham.
Gingham was conditioned by Bob Baffert, who also trains Blackadder. Speed has been a recurring theme for Blackadder during morning workouts, and although his experienced stablemate Messier is shaping up as the favorite on Friday, Blackadder should be capable of delivering a competitive performance in his own right.